The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

May 11, 2013

‘A family person’: Secretary retiring after 41 years at church

ENID, Okla. — Dolores “Dee” Cunningham is retiring as secretary at St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, after 41 years “keeping things moving.” With four children and nine grandchildren, she always will have something to do.

Cunningham started at the church while the building still was under construction, and worked from her home until the building was completed.

“We met at the Knights of Columbus Hall,” she said.

Cunningham has outlasted six parish priests and raised her two boys and two girls in that church.

Church member Sharon Trojan said Cunningham is a great mother.

“She is a family person. It’s amazing. You look in the choir and Dee is singing, her oldest son Keith is singing, Kyle is there and her daughter Kara. They are all together,” Trojan said. “The whole family is there doing things, her daughter-in-law is the music director.”

Cunningham said the position at St. Gregory’s is a busy job, but it was tougher when the church had a food pantry. She originally worked in the food pantry by herself, then they recruited others to help her, she said.

“This is a fulfilling job. All the people here are super, and I will miss them,” she said. “Everybody becomes like a family member.”

Cunningham’s family never thought of leaving Enid. She was raised in Waukomis and attended the Catholic Church in Bison as a child. While she is retired, they plan to travel in the state.

“There are a lot of things in Oklahoma, and we will stay close by,” she said. Also, they will spend time with their grandchildren, just as they have done all of their lives. Cunningham regularly attends school events for her grandchildren, just as she did for her children.

“I could say she is the definition of what a mother should be. She is loving, caring and they are all volunteers,” Trojan said. “She taught them giving of yourself is one of the most important things. They are a very, very close family.”

Trojan said Cunningham taught her children and grandchildren by example.

“They say you should show you are a Christian, evangelize with words only when you need to. That’s the way she lives her life,” Trojan said.

The church will hold a retirement party for Cunningham June 8 at the Knights of Columbus Hall.

Cunningham said she only has a few outstanding memories of her time at the church, because it has gone by so quickly.

She said it is important to attend your children’s activities, because it shows you are interested in what they are interested in. Her children played basketball and baseball at Chisholm, and she now goes to her grandchildren’s ball games. She and her husband, Charlie, will have been married 53 years in August.

“I don’t know where the years have been,” she said.  

Balancing time for her children was not difficult, she said, because their activities mostly were held at night. She had her first three children close together, and the youngest 10 years late. After the birth of the youngest, she asked for the summer off to spend with her children, and returned to work in September. She worked while her kids were in school and was home before they got home from school.

Her number one job is being a mother, she said. When their children were young, her husband Charlie left for work early in the morning, before they woke up, and returned home later at night after they were in bed. The older three children did not see him as much as the younger one, who was born after he began working in Enid.

Trojan said Cunningham spends as much time volunteering as she does doing what she gets paid for, and she always is reliable anytime she is needed.

“If you need something, call Dee. She has been amazing,” Trojan said. “They can get someone else to take the job, but she can’t be replaced.”

Trojan has known her for 35 years, ever since she and her husband moved to Enid and began attending St. Gregory’s church. Cunningham has been part of that church that long and was there when Sharon and David began attending there.

“I’ve known her a long time,” she said.

Cunningham offered advice for young mothers, saying to be involved in what the children are doing in school and make sure their homework is being done. The 41 years have gone by in a hurry, she said.

“It’s gone so fast, I don’t keep track of where it goes,” she said.

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